Kayaking Killens Pond – Life Looks at a Prothonotary Warbler

Kelley NunnRecovery Big Year

Prothonotary Warbler - Kayaking Killens Pond, Delaware

Kayaking is one of my absolute all-time favorite activities. Being out on the water makes me endlessly happy. And now that I have POTS (Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome) and vestibular migraine, it makes for excellent exercise; I get to practice balance and get my heart pumping, but without my head bouncing around or the blood pooling in my legs. It’s downright perfect! Since I packed the kayak away last fall, I have been counting down the days ’til I could embark on my first spring paddle of 2016. And finally (finally!), it’s happened.

Kayaking Killens Pond, Delaware

Kayaking Killens Pond

Kayaking Killens Pond

This weekend, we were able to paddle an entirely brand new location for me: Killens Pond. The tiny 66-acre pond is located just south of Dover, Delaware, and is breeding grounds for a species of bird that I really really wanted to get a good look at– Prothonotary Warbler. So, after dipping on the recently (and since) reported Ruff at Bombay Hook NWR earlier on Sunday morning, Hannah and I set off for Killens.

Once we arrived, Hannah and I paddled about half of the perimeter of the pond; on the edge, we saw a Canada Goose on a nest, plus a handful of large turtles that plopped into the water as we passed. At the far end of the pond was a small creek, which we entered and slowly paddled along. The habitat here was the closest thing to the Amazon Rainforest that I’ve seen around these parts– still, black water and a dead silent, incredibly green forest. The silence was unreal, and was punctuated only by the occasional birdsong.

Absolutely Stunning Prothonotary Warbler - Kayaking Killens Pond, Delaware

Prothonotary Warbler – Kayaking Killens Pond, Delaware

At one point, we stumbled upon a small flock of birds, from which Hannah spotted a brilliantly yellow adult male Prothonotary Warbler. The color of this bird was jaw dropping. Stunning. Gorgeous. I have never seen any bird this brightly colored. The thing was literally glowing. Even it’s reflection in the water was glowing! And the best part was, the bird was hopping along through the creekside habitat, paying absolutely no mind to us. All in all, we spent several minutes floating at a snail’s pace alongside this awesome bird, watching it’s every movement, every head turn. I have never had such an intimate experience with a warbler, let alone a Prothonotary. Shortly after this encounter, we turned our boats around and made our way back towards the car. On the way, we spotted an additional 2 pairs of Prothonotaries, making for 5 total!

The experience at Killens was life changing, unforgettable, and something I’d like to do again (and again). To have the physical ability to partake in such extraordinary experiences is something I feel profoundly grateful for. Each adventure is a reminder that life is nothing short of incredible.

To see a couple of photos from the Killens trip, you can check out the gallery below:

Photo Highlights – Kayaking Killens Pond + Fox Kits at Bombay Hook

Kayaking Dragon Run (Last Weekend)

I was lucky enough to kayak Dragon Run in Delaware City, DE– one of my absolute favorite places– with Hannah Greenberg last weekend as my first paddle of the season. We had an extraordinary and thrilling encounter with a pair of Sandhill Cranes, which first flew alongside us, and later flew directly in front of us! Truly spectacular. To see a handful of photos from our kayaking trip to Dragon Run, you can check out the images below:

Current Recovery Big Year Standings:

The trip to Killens Pond this past weekend has brought me up to a total of 189 species for the year!! Well on my way to my goal of 275. I was lucky to get a totally unexpected life bird during our quick stop at Bombay Hook NWR, De– American Golden Plover! As we were scanning from the Raymond Pool observation tower, a friendly birder pointed out a full-blown adult in golden breeding plumage. Amazing! I, unfortunately, didn’t catch the name of this birder, but am very thankful to him for pointing out this lifer! The American Golden Plover brings me up to 4 life birds for the year! Only 6 more to go before hitting my goal of 10…

I am very much looking forward to achieving one of my unofficial Recovery Big Year goals next weekend: participating in a big day as part of the Delaware Bird-A-Thon!! To read more about the Bird-A-Thon, and our team, “The Aviators,” check out the blog post here.